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This section of SustainabiliTank.info – REAL WORLD’S NEWS – will be carrying short notes with information not based on the daily press of the United States.

We will not attempt here to write lengthy articles, neither will we editorialize on why the information did not see light in the US.

If readers find other material relevant to sustainable development that was not published, please forward it to us at: Submissions@SustainabiliTank.info


 
Real World’s News:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Who’s the Illegitimate President Now, Mr. Birtherism?

Trump spent five years trying to delegitimize Obama. Now he’s taking office under a cloud of suspicion, and only has himself to blame.

BY BRIAN BEUTLER, The New Republic
Friday, January 13, 2017


It is ironic that Donald Trump owes his success in Republican politics, and thus ultimately his presidency, to birtherism given the extent to which he failed to bring birtherism mainstream.

Trump Is Exactly the Monster We Feared, and Republicans Are Enabling Him

He assumed leadership of the birther movement in March 2011 when he first expressed public doubts about whether President Barack Obama was born in the U.S. The next month, Obama put an end to the farce by producing his Hawaiian birth certificate at a White House press conference, and days later humiliated Trump during the White House Correspondents Dinner. But Trump kept expressing doubts about Obama’s country of origin until late in the 2016 presidential campaign, when he shamelessly attempted to blame the entire crusade on Hillary Clinton. Eventually he had the last laugh.

Birtherism was a huge plot line of his presidency, one generally pushed by elements of the conservative fringe. Though these conspiracy theorists were egged on by Republicans, birtherism never became a mainstream Republican rallying cry because it is racist and fabricated. But the propulsive force behind birtherism, if not the theory itself, was a widely shared right-wing desire to void Obama’s presidency. Racism led elements of the far right to adopt birtherism specifically, but their quest was for any revelation that could prevent Obama from running the country. Only a few criteria govern who can become president; one of them is that the president must be a natural-born citizen; birtherism thus emerges from circular reasoning and wishful thinking. It is a tool that allows political nemeses to trump all politics, which is why white candidates like John McCain and Ted Cruz have also found themselves at the center of less obviously racist birther inquests.

But if it’s ironic that Trump rose to the pinnacle of global power on the strength of a failed campaign to delegitimize Obama, it’s also fitting that his own presidency will begin under a mix of suspicions and legitimacy questions that are very real and that Trump brought upon himself.

Nobody who’s reasonable questions Trump’s eligibility for the presidency, but questions surrounding his entitlement to keep the job are widespread, and not just on the left-wing fringe. Birtherism may have been Trump’s accidental springboard to the presidency, but the next four years are set to express themselves as a continuous fight over the legitimacy of his presidency in ways that will make birtherism seem like a footnote.

The fact that Trump’s weak lock on the presidency isn’t more widely discussed is attributable almost entirely to Republicans in Congress who, for now and for the foreseeable future, have resolved to foreclose inquiries into Trump’s conduct that may yield impeachable offenses.

Democrats can’t force investigations, and they can’t issue subpoenas, so they can’t isolate the source of all the smoke. But it’s everywhere.

Consider the following:

It is very likely that the FBI is investigating links between Trump’s campaign aides and Russian actors who allegedly conducted a sabotage campaign against the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, and into whether Russian officials have the capacity to blackmail Trump.
His designated CIA director, Mike Pompeo, not only vouchsafed the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia embarked on its disruption campaign with the goal of helping Trump, but promised the senators considering his nomination “to pursue foreign intelligence with vigor no matter where the facts lead.”

Trump has forced the director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, Jr., to take the unprecedented step of upbraiding the president-elect for freezing out ethics officers, and for making financial decisions that leave him highly conflicted between his business and the public interest. Shaub called Trump’s decision to hand executive control over his business to his sons “wholly inadequate” and urged him to fully divest from the Trump organization.
Ethics experts, and others on the left and right, have observed that Trump is very likely to become in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution almost immediately after taking the oath of office. Trump will set off a silent constitutional crisis in hour zero, leaving everyone wondering when it will become impossible to ignore.
All of these issues will dog Trump endlessly, if only because Trump rejects even the slightest affronts to his ego and bottom line. He could liquidate his assets and he could support a full inquiry into the Russian government’s actions and contacts over the course of the election. But he never will.

These decisions, and the pall they cast over his administration-in-waiting, likely explain why he will enter the White House with the lowest favorability rating of any incoming president in modern history, and why he’ll likely have a harder time capitalizing on good political and economic fortunes than presidents normally do. His antic campaign to bully manufacturers into keeping jobs in the U.S. was widely heralded as a public-relations coup, and yet, “voters disapprove 51 – 37 percent of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president-elect.”

There are glimmers of hope in this state of affairs for Trump foes—dim flashes of accountability in the few institutions (the media, the intelligence community) that haven’t completely submitted to Trumpism, and a source of enduring opposition to Trump’s gross behavior and the GOP’s unpopular policy agenda.

But there are dangers, too. Being unpopular and under a cloud of suspicion makes Trump more prone to lash out. He baselessly dismissed the record size of his popular vote deficit as an artifact of millions of people voting illegally. When he’s in power, that scapegoating tendency could easily turn into a crackdown on voting that will dwarf Obama-era voter suppression. Before becoming their first customer, Trump compared the intelligence community to Nazi Germany. He likewise refers to news outlets who write stories about intelligence findings as “fake news.”

As of this writing, Trump has not responded to the fact that the Justice Department’s Inspector General will be investigating whether the FBI took illegal or unethical steps to help Trump win the presidency at Clinton’s expense. But if he is true to form, he will politicize that inquiry, too. His popularity may never rise above water, but he can still leave plenty of institutional damage in his wake. And, of course, he could start a war.

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Brian Beutler is a senior editor at The New Republic. He hosts Primary Concerns, a podcast about politics.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From Trump’s first Press Conference: PEOTUS thinks the Presidency is a part-time job that entitles him to continue to manage the Trump Organization and the Trump Company. If he distances himself somewhat from his business interests this is just to decrease the perception that it looks bad. But what about the question of being beholden to Putin’s installed Washington Red House?

On the very simple level, as Salon published WSJ’s look at business aspects of the conundrum
of Trumps clear conflicts of interests – yesterday’s “First Press Conference” showed clearly that the most serious trigger of danger is his dependence on Putin’s good will. Yes, Trump is ready to acknowledge that Putin was responsible for the hacking of his opponent’s secrets, while being rude on camera in not allowing the CNN reporter to ask the pinpointing question – “Did you have contacts with Russians during the election period?”

The worst thing will turn out not the hacking of the Hillary Clinton and her staff’s e-mail accounts – but in effect the much juicier Trump e-mail accounts. It seems that Putin knew well, unsurprisingly, exactly what he was doing when getting very meager news from the Clinton and John Podesta’s mail, while mining the wast global business Trump information.
We suggest that while helping Trump be elected, Putin was stashing away the info to perform a future extortion game of a President Trump and his eventual ruling partners – which he obviously did not have their names – but clearly knew that they will come from the circle of Trump’s business partners – the future oligarchs of America.

Trying to get the large picture of the USA as projected by the unfolding events we start with a recollection of the way US Democracy is framed. We find there four Estates in this Democracy – The three supposedly independent institutions of the Presidency (the White House), The Legislative (the Congress) and the Judiciary (the Supreme Court). Then we have the Fourth Estate – The Media. Albeit, we are not naive to see the three independent institutions as truly independent – we know that all three are dependent on the same large business and Corporate interests. That is why the Media is so important. The role of the media is to insure that the three institutions stay honest. Not an easy task if the media is not allowed to operate freely – If those that own it fall also under the domination of those same large interests. We saw it during the elections how FOX, led by a Trump friendly billionaire was nothing more then an echo-chamber of Trump. This will not change meaningfully now after Trump won, but some of the others are still ready to do your job, but are now in danger of being thrown out from those very infrequent press conferences, that Trump has in mind. This may be the last blow to US democracy and in Trump’s treatment of the CNN correspondent last night is the beacon of the Trump intentions. Trump at minimum – promises to turn the historic White House into Washington’s Red House with Putin holding the reins of the Trump coffin carriage.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


SHOCKING OF THE UN-INITIATED? NOW IT IS OFFICIAL – PUTIN PERSONALLY WAS INVOLVED IN CREATING US ELECTION RESULTS. WAS THERE FURTHER COLLUSION WITH THE US RIGHT – IN THE PERSON OF THE HEAD OF THE FBI WHO CHOSE THE TIME WHEN THE PUTIN INTERFERENCE WOULD BEAR MOST FRUIT?

The US intelligence community concluded in a declassified report released Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

The report was the first official, full and public accounting by the US intelligence community of its assessment of Russian hacking activities during the 2016 campaign.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report said.

The campaign — which consisted of hacking Democratic groups and individuals, including Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and releasing that information via third-party websites, including WikiLeaks — amounted to what the intelligence report called “a significant escalation” in longtime Russian efforts to undermine “the US-led liberal democratic order.”

Trump earlier Friday downplayed Russia’s role in the election after what he called a “constructive meeting” with top US intelligence officials.

Trump tried to defuse controversy over his criticism of the intelligence community and said he will appoint a team within 90 days to figure out ways to stop foreign hacking.

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National Security: Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump.

By Greg Miller, The Washington Post, January 6 at 4:49 PM


Russia carried out a comprehensive cybercampaign to upend the U.S. presidential election, an operation that was ordered by Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and “aspired to help” elect Donald Trump by discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a report released Friday.

The report depicts Russian interference as unprecedented in scale, saying that Moscow’s assault represented “a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort” beyond previous election-related espionage.


The campaign was ordered by Putin himself and initially sought primarily to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, “denigrate Secretary Clinton” and harm her electoral prospects. But as the campaign proceeded, Russia “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” and repeatedly sought to elevate him by “discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”


The document represents an extraordinarily direct and detailed account of a long-standing U.S. adversary’s multi-pronged intervention in a fundamental pillar of American democracy.

Trump emerged from a briefing on the report by the nation’s top intelligence officials Friday seeming to acknowledge for the first time at least the possibility that Russia was behind election-related hacks. But he offered no indication that he was prepared to accept U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to help him win.

Report on Russian hacking released after Trump briefing Play Video3:04
U.S. intelligence agencies released a declassified version of their report on Russian intervention in the 2016 U.S. election on Jan. 6, just hours after President-elect Donald Trump was briefed by American officials. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
Instead, Trump said in a statement issued just minutes after the high-level meeting ended that whatever hacking had occurred, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

Trump’s statement seemed designed to create the impression that this was the view of the intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan, who had met with him.

But weighing whether Russia’s intervention altered the outcome of the 2016 race was beyond the scope of the review that the nation’s spy agencies completed this week. And Clapper testified in a Senate hearing Thursday that U.S. intelligence services “have no way of gauging the impact .?.?. it had on the choices the electorate made. There’s no way for us to gauge that.”

Trump’s statement came after his first face-to-face encounter with the leaders of intelligence agencies whose work he has repeatedly disparaged. Others who took part in the meeting included FBI Director James B. Comey and National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers.

All four of the spy chiefs have endorsed a classified report that was briefed to Trump and circulated in Washington this week that concludes that Russia used a combination of aggressive hacking, propaganda and “fake news” to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

Trump appeared to acknowledge that hacking of Democratic and Republican computer networks had occurred, but was apparently not prepared to accept the consensus view of U.S. spy services that Russia sought to help him win.

“I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the intelligence community,” Trump said. He acknowledged that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber-infrastructure of our government institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee.”

U.S. intelligence captured Russian officials’ communications celebrating Trump’s victory.
(a Video 2:42 minutes presented}

The Post’s Adam Entous reports that U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted electronic communications, known as “signals intelligence,” in which top Russian officials celebrated the outcome of the U.S. election. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

The session was seen as an early indicator of whether Trump could reach some sort of accord with U.S. intelligence agencies or is determined to extend his increasingly bitter feud with America’s spies and analysts into his first term.

In an interview with the New York Times before Friday’s briefing, Trump said the focus on Russian hacking “is a political witch hunt.”

In Thursday’s testimony, Clapper appeared to take aim at Trump and the stream of social-media insults he has targeted at the intelligence community over the Russia issue.

“There is an important distinction here between healthy skepticism, which policymakers, to include policymaker number one, should always have for intelligence,” Clapper said. “But I think there is a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”

The meeting, which was requested by Trump, comes on the heels of a series of revelations about Russia’s role and motivations in last year’s campaign.

The Post reported in December that the CIA and other agencies had concluded that Russia sought not only to disrupt the election and sow doubt about the legitimacy of American democratic institutions but also to help Trump win.

U.S. intelligence agencies based that determination on an array of interlocking intelligence pieces, including the identification of known “actors” with ties to Russian intelligence services who helped deliver troves of stolen Democratic email files to the WikiLeaks website.

U.S. spy agencies also monitored communications in Moscow after the election that showed that senior officials in the Russian government, including those believed to have had knowledge of the hacking campaign, celebrated Trump’s win and congratulated one another on the outcome.

Trump has rejected intelligence agencies’ unanimous conclusions about Russia, saying it could just as easily have been China or “some guy” in New Jersey.

Trump has seemed to court conflict with U.S. intelligence agencies on several fronts. During his campaign, he vowed to order the CIA to return to the use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation measures widely condemned as torture. Since his surprise victory, Trump has skipped the majority of the daily intelligence briefings made available to him, saying that he has no need for sessions that he finds repetitive.

But the president-elect softened his message on Thursday, saying on Twitter that he is a “big fan” of intelligence, although, as has been his practice, he set off the word “intelligence” in quotes.

============================

The United States’ most senior intelligence officials briefed Trump on Russian hacking during the election campaign just hours after the President-elect doubled down on his dismissal of the threat as an artificial and politically driven controversy, calling it a “witch hunt.”

Trump also tried to defuse controversy over his criticism of the intelligence community and continued refusal to accept Moscow’s actions, calling the Friday meeting “constructive” and offering praise for the senior intel officials. He said he will appoint a team within 90 days to figure out ways to stop foreign hacking.

Trump’s meeting with the intel officials took around 90 minutes at Trump Tower. A Trump spokeswoman said the officials who gave the briefing were Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey.


Officials: Hackers aggressively targeting US 02:26

A senior TRUMP transition official described the meeting between Trump and intelligence community officials as “cordial,” not contentious. Trump asked questions and made clear his admiration for intelligence community employees, the official added.

Based on the presentation Friday, which included new information, the TRUMP official insisted that it’s the transition’s view that the hacking was intended to harm Hillary Clinton more than to help Trump. This official pointed to what they were told at the meeting, that the cyberactivity began in late 2015 and early 2016, before it was clear Trump would be the nominee. So, the official asked, how could the hacking be a pro-Trump operation if it began so early on. “This was more an effort to discredit her than anything else,” the Trump official said.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


China Aims to Spend at Least $360 Billion on Renewable Energy by 2020

By MICHAEL FORSYTHE, January 5, 2017, The New York Times

China intends to spend more than $360 billion through 2020 on renewable power sources like solar and wind, the government’s energy agency said on Thursday.

The country’s National Energy Administration laid out a plan to dominate one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, just at a time when the United States is set to take the opposite tack as Donald J. Trump, a climate-change doubter, prepares to assume the presidency.

The agency said in a statement that China would create more than 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2020, curb the growth of greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming and reduce the amount of soot that in recent days has blanketed Beijing and other Chinese cities in a noxious cloud of smog.

China surpassed the United States a decade ago as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses, and now discharges about twice as much. For years, its oil and coal industries prospered under powerful political patrons and the growth-above-anything mantra of the ruling Communist Party.

The result was choking pollution and the growing recognition that China, many of whose biggest cities are on the coast, will be threatened by rising sea levels.

But even disregarding the threat of climate change, China’s announcement was a bold claim on leadership in the renewable energy industry, where Chinese companies, buoyed by a huge domestic market, are already among the world’s dominant players. Thanks in part to Chinese manufacturing, costs in the wind and solar industries are plummeting, making them increasingly competitive with power generation from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

Sam Geall, executive editor of Chinadialogue, an English- and Chinese-language website that focuses on the environment, said that the United States, by moving away from a focus on reducing carbon emissions, risked losing out to China in the race to lead the industry.

Mr. Trump has in the past called the theory of human-cased global warming a hoax and picked a fierce opponent of President Obama’s rules to reduce carbon emissions, Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

The investment commitment made by the Chinese, combined with Mr. Trump’s moves, means jobs that would have been created in the United States may instead go to Chinese workers.

Even the headline-grabbing numbers on total investment and job creation may understate what is already happening on the ground in China. Greenpeace estimates that China installed an average of more than one wind turbine every hour of every day in 2015, and covered the equivalent of one soccer field every hour with solar panels.

China may meet its 2020 goals for solar installation by 2018, said Lauri Myllyvirta, a research analyst at Greenpeace, who is based in Beijing.

But despite these impressive numbers, China’s push to clean its air and reduce its greenhouse gasses faces political pressure from the politically powerful coal industry.

Mr. Geall and Mr. Myllyvirta both said that Thursday’s announcement was missing any language on curtailment, or the amount of electricity generated by wind and solar that never finds its way to the country’s power grid. In China, wind power curtailment was 19 percent in the first nine months 2016, Mr. Myllyvirta said, many times higher than in the United States, where curtailment levels are often negligible.

The main reason for curtailment, he said, is that China is plagued by overcapacity in electricity generation and operators of China’s grid often favor electricity generated from coal.

In recent years the country has also been building coal-fired power plants at a furious pace, although that has recently slowed along with China’s economy. Another omission from Thursday’s announcements, Mr. Myllyvirta said, was the absence of any specific target to reduce coal consumption.

But both Mr. Geall and Mr. Myllyvirta said Thursday’s announcement set the stage for still more power generation from renewable energy and a gradual shift away from coal.

“My experience with China is when a numeric target gets written down, it gets implemented,” Mr. Myllyvirta said. “It doesn’t always get implemented in the way you like, but it does get implemented.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


If Trump’s Nominee Scott Pruitt Is Confirmed, ‘EPA Would Stand for Every Polluter’s Ally’

By Elliott Negin, EcoWatch
04 January 17


Nominating Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives lie to Donald Trump’s claim that he is serious about protecting the public from pollution. While the president-elect has waffled on climate change, he has been unequivocal about toxics.

“Clean air is vitally important,” Trump declared during a Nov. 22, 2016 interview with The New York Times. “Clean water,” he added, “crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.” And when he announced Pruitt’s nomination in early December, Trump vowed that the attorney general would “restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and water clean and safe.”

Putting aside the fact that the EPA has not forsaken that mission, Pruitt’s track record indicates that he would do the exact opposite. Under Pruitt, the acronym EPA would stand for Every Polluter’s Ally.

Follow EcoWatch @EcoWatch
Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry,’ to Head EPA ow.ly/sGrC306X0Cr @GreenpeaceAustP @Green_Europe 1:40 PM – 9 Dec 2016

Photo published for Trump Picks ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry’ to Head EPA
Trump Picks ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry’ to Head EPA
Donald Trump has appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The conservative Republican has close ties to the fossil fuel industry and…  ecowatch.com 33 33 Retweets 17 17 likes

Since he took office as Oklahoma’s attorney general in 2010, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the EPA to block key safeguards limiting power plant pollution, most notably the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which limits sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which curb mercury, arsenic, cyanide and other emissions.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are primary ingredients of soot and smog pollution, which cause a number of respiratory problems, including bronchitis and aggravated asthma, as well as cardiovascular disease and premature death. Mercury and other toxic pollutants covered by MATS have been linked to heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and premature death. Some 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, alone. That’s one out of every 12 people.

The potential benefits of the Cross-State Rule and MATS are considerable. Taken together, they are projected to prevent 18,000 to 46,000 premature deaths across the country and save $150 billion to $380 billion in health care costs annually. In Pruitt’s home state, the two regulations would avert as many as 720 premature deaths and save as much as $5.9 billion per year.

Pruitt also has sued the EPA to prevent the agency from implementing a rule that would reduce the amount of ground-level ozone or smog, which the American Lung Association says is the most widespread pollutant nationwide and one of the most dangerous. Produced when sunlight heats nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide from power plants, industrial facilities and automobiles, ozone pollution has been linked to respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and premature death. It is particularly harmful for the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly, and people already suffering from asthma or another respiratory disease.

No matter. In October 2015, Pruitt joined with four other states to challenge the new ozone rule in court, despite the fact that earlier that month, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said the state could meet the new EPA limits.

Pruitt also has targeted clean water safeguards. In July 2015, he sued the EPA over the Clean Water Rule, which the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had just issued to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act. The rule was in response to two Supreme Court decisions—in 2001and in 2006—that called into question whether the federal government had the authority to protect smaller streams, wetlands and other water bodies that flow into drinking water supplies. From a scientific perspective, it’s a no-brainer. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy explained in a statement: “For the lakes and rivers we love to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them have to be clean, too.”

Pruitt doesn’t see it that way. In a March 2015 column he co-wrote with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for The Hill, Pruitt called the Clean Water Rule “the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen.” Pruitt and Rand maintain that states should be responsible for protecting the environment within their respective borders, not the federal government. Never mind that air and water pollution do not honor political boundaries and state legislatures are all too often dominated by corporate interests.

Besides Pruitt’s disdain for air and water safeguards, he is no fan of federal efforts to address climate change, which he falsely insists is an open scientific question. Pruitt, who has received generous contributions from fossil fuel interests, is not only party to a pending lawsuit against the EPA over its Clean Power Plan to curb electricity sector carbon emissions, he also attempted unsuccessfully to overturn the agency’s science-based “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare, a cornerstone of the EPA’s climate work.

Public health advocates are rightly horrified at the prospect of Pruitt running the EPA. The response from Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, was typical.

“The EPA plays an absolutely vital role in enforcing long-standing policies that protect the health and safety of Americans, based on the best available science,” Kimmell said in a press statement. “Pruitt has a clear record of hostility to the EPA’s mission, and he is a completely inappropriate choice to lead it. … It’s this simple: If senators take seriously their job of protecting the public, they must vote no on Pruitt.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

California is destined to be the anti-Trump like Texas was the anti-Obama.
Take notice – California is the Fifth largest economy in the World and its legislature does not want Trump to mess it up.

California braces for a Trump presidency by tapping former U.S. Atty. General Eric Holder for legal counsel.

By Melanie MasonMelanie Mason, Contact Reporter based in Sacramento, The Los Angeles Times.

Bracing for an adversarial relationship with President-elect Donald Trump, the California Legislature has selected former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to serve as outside counsel to advise the state’s legal strategy against the incoming administration.


The unusual arrangement will give Holder, leading a team of attorneys from the firm Covington & Burling, a broad portfolio covering potential conflicts between California and the federal government.

“He will be our lead litigator, and he will have a legal team of expert lawyers on the issues of climate change, women and civil rights, the environment, immigration, voting rights — to name just a few,” Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said in an interview.

Such a task typically falls to the state attorney general. On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown formally nominated Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra to replace former Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, who now serves in the U.S. Senate. Becerra, whose nomination hearings in the Legislature begin next week, is expected to be easily confirmed.

But De León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon began contemplating hiring outside legal counsel for the Legislature almost immediately after Trump’s election, in hopes of protecting existing state policies that are at odds with the president-elect’s stated positions.

“While we don’t yet know the harmful proposals the next administration will put forward, thanks to Donald Trump’s campaign, cabinet appointments and Twitter feed, we do have an idea of what we will be dealing with,” Rendon said in a statement.

“The Covington team will be an important resource as we work with the governor and the attorney general to protect Californians,” he added.

The two legislative leaders have taken an unabashedly combative posture against Trump.
Rendon, in remarks last month at a swearing-in ceremony for lawmakers, described the incoming administration as a “major existential threat,” and asserted “Californians do not need healing. We need to fight.”

De León said the additional counsel would offer “more legal firepower” that would complement and bring additional heft to the state attorney general’s efforts.

“Hiring the former attorney general — the nation’s top lawyer — it shows that we’re very serious in protecting the values of the people of California against any attempt to undermine the policies that has made us the fifth-largest economy in the world,” De León said.

Bringing on outside counsel is not unprecedented for the Legislature. The state Senate hired special counsel for a select committee investigating price manipulation in the wholesale energy market by Enron in the early 2000s. The Senate also sought outside counsel to sort through the federal investigation of former Democratic state Sen. Ron Calderon, who later pleaded guilty to corruption charges.


Updates from Sacramento:

But it is far more unorthodox for both houses to join together in retaining counsel in a preemptive bid to prepare for as-yet-unknown litigation and policy-making at the federal level. Much of the arrangement remains murky, including how Holder’s efforts will differ from or align with Becerra’s.

Also unclear: the price tag. Aides to legislative leaders declined to specify how much Covington & Burling’s services will cost the state, citing still-unfinished contracts, but said the payment would come out of both chambers’ operating budgets and would not require additional state funds.

Holder, who was a partner at Covington from 2001 until 2009 before rejoining the firm in 2015, will direct the efforts from the firm’s Washington, D.C., office. The firm, which has a long-established presence in the nation’s capital, has in recent years expanded its footprint in California. Covington’s Los Angeles office, which will play a major role in working with the Legislature, was launched in part by former federal prosecutor Dan Shallman, whose brother, John Shallman, is a prominent Democratic strategist whose clients include De León.

“I am honored that the legislature chose Covington to serve as its legal advisor as it considers how to respond to potential changes in federal law that could impact California’s residents and policy priorities,” Holder said in a statement provided by De León’s office.

“I am confident that our expertise across a wide array of federal legal and regulatory issues will be a great resource for the legislature.”

Holder, a close friend of President Obama, left the Justice Department in 2015. As one of the most liberal figures in the Obama administration, his tenure was defined by a focus on civil rights and criminal justice reform and was marked by a tumultuous relationship with Congress and scandal stemming from the failed gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious.

Representing California lawmakers against Trump won’t be Holder’s sole foray into politics in the coming years. He is also overseeing a Democratic campaign focused on redistricting, the process of redrawing political maps that, in recent years, has tilted state legislative and congressional landscapes in the Republicans’ favor.

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 melanie.mason at latimes.com

Follow @melmason on Twitter for the latest on California politics.

ALSO

California is itching to take on Trump. Here are the prominent figures leading the charge.
Texas was Obama’s chief antagonist. In Trump’s America, California is eager for the part.

California’s new legislative session begins with a message: We’re ready to fight Trump.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Will António Guterres be the UN’s best ever secretary general? Asks the Guardian.

Cultured and consensual, the Portuguese politician has had the perfect preparation for the United Nations’ top job says the Guardian.

Sunday 1 January 2017 07.00 GMT Last modified on Sunday 1 January 2017 22.00 GMT

When António Guterres resigned halfway through his second term as Portuguese prime minister in 2002 because his minority government was floundering, he did something unusual for a man who had seen the highest reaches of power.

Several times a week, he went to slum neighborhoods on the edge of Lisbon to give free maths tuition to children.

“He never allowed a journalist to go with him or let himself be filmed or photographed, and he never let journalists talk to any of his students,” said Ricardo Costa, editor-in-chief of the Portuguese SIC News, who covered Guterres’s political career. The former prime minister told his surprised students that what he was doing was personal and not for show.

The Portuguese socialist, who becomes the next UN secretary general on Sunday, is an intellectual who grew up under Portugal’s dictatorship and came of age with the 1974 revolution that ended 48 years of authoritarian rule.

Crucial to understanding Guterres, 67, is his Christian faith: his progressive Catholicism always informed his brand of social democratic politics.

In the heady days of Portugal’s revolution, it was rare to be a practising Catholic in a new Socialist party where many members had Marxist backgrounds. But Guterres, a star engineering student who grew a moustache in honour of the Chilean left’s Salvador Allende, would eventually become a modernising leader, arguing that his mission was social justice and equality.

On the Portuguese left, faith was a delicate issue that required discretion. Under Guterres, the country held a referendum in 1998 on a proposal to liberalise the strict abortion laws. Socialist MPs had a free vote and, as prime minister, Guterres chose not to officially campaign. But it was publicly known that he opposed changing the law, which irked many in his party. The no vote against liberalising the abortion law narrowly won, but turnout was so low that the result was not binding. Abortion laws were finally relaxed in 2007 after a second referendum.

Born in Lisbon, Guterres spent stretches of his childhood with relatives in the countryside, where he saw the poverty of rural life under the dictatorship, and later volunteered with Catholic student groups on social projects in the capital.

In 1976, the young engineering lecturer was elected a Socialist MP in Portugal’s first democratic vote since the revolution. In parliament, he was a fearsome orator. Such was his talent for verbally destroying political opponents, he became known as “the talking pickaxe”.

Guterres became prime minister in 1995. His campaign slogan was “heart and reason”, a cry for more humanism and social politics. Three years earlier he had taken over the Socialist party and modernised it, although he remained to the left of contemporaries such as Tony Blair. For years he led the Socialist International international grouping of leftwing parties.

With Portugal’s rapid economic growth and nearly full employment, Guterres was able to set up a guaranteed minimum income and nursery schooling for all. But he had failed to win an absolute majority and was condemned to preside over a tricky minority government. He had to rely on his skill for consensus, always having to negotiate with the opposition parties if he wanted to get anything passed – something he later argued was perfect training for running the UN.

“He was a skillful person – very smart, very quick to understand the other point of view and very focused on having solutions – that’s why it worked,” said António Vitorino, Guterres’s deputy prime minister and defence minister.

Guterres was furiously hardworking. But behind this was a backdrop of family tragedy. His wife, Luísa Guimarães e Melo, a psychiatrist with whom he had two children, had been critically ill for most of his time in government and was undergoing treatment at a London hospital.

“It was one of the hardest moments of his political life,” Vitorino said. “Every Friday morning, he took a plane to London, spent the weekend there in a very desperate situation and then on Monday morning he was back at work. I was his deputy prime minister, I was amazed. I could never have done what he was doing.”

In 1998, Guterres’s wife died. The following year, he threw himself into the general elections. He had hoped to win an outright majority but the Socialists ended up one MP short and began a second minority government. This time, a slowdown in the economy made things harder.

Guterres, privately growing disillusioned with internal party politics, turned increasingly to his interest in international diplomacy. He had already won praise for his role in resolving the crisis in Timor-Leste, a former Portuguese colony, which had erupted into violence in 1999 after a referendum vote in favour of independence from Indonesia. Guterres led diplomatic efforts to convince the UN to intervene to restore peace.

In 2000, when Portugal took the rotating presidency of the European Union, its success was attributed to Guterres’s ability to get big leaders to agree and smaller leaders to be heard.

António Guterres accepts roses from a supporter in Lisbon
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António Guterres is cheered after his party won Portugal’s general elections in October 1999. Photograph: Armando Franca/AP
“He did something very original: he looked at what every country wanted and set up an agenda that could be interesting for everyone,” said Francisco Seixas da Costa, a Portuguese diplomat who served as Guterres’s European affairs secretary. “Small countries disappear in the decision-making process so we tried to listen to their interests.”

Guterres managed to talk down powerful leaders at loggerheads. “At the European council, I remember a conflict between Jacques Chirac and Helmut Kohl over one issue,” Seixas da Costa said. “Guterres asked for the floor. I was sitting next to him, I was afraid it might be naive. But he took the floor and made a proposal that covered both their interests, and it was a success. It worked. He had a fantastic capacity to moderate and create links and bridges.”

In 2002, halfway through his second term as prime minister, Guterres abruptly resigned after the Socialists suffered a drubbing in local elections. He famously said he wanted to avoid the country falling into a “political swamp” and that he had discovered “politics has its limits”.

At the time he was unpopular, criticised for too much compromise and too much dialogue. But over the years since his departure, polls showed he was increasingly liked and seen as fair, serious and honest – a possible contender for Portuguese president, although he never wanted to return to national politics, preferring, he said, to make a difference on the world stage.

His decade serving as UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) from 2005 to 2015 was seen in Portugal as an obvious fit for his personality: socially engaged but seeking common ground.

Guterres – who speaks Portuguese, English, French and Spanish and is now remarried to Catarina Vaz Pinto, who works at Lisbon city hall – was known in political circles for enthusiastic, cultured conversations on everything from ancient Greece to Middle Eastern culture, opera to geography.

Whenever he had free time during visits to Washington as UNHCR chief, he would get the organisation’s regional representative, Michel Gabaudan, to take him to Politics & Prose or another of the city’s bookshops.

“He’s an avid reader of history, and his pleasure was, if we had an hour, to go to a bookshop, so we would have access to books in English that weren’t easy to get in Geneva,” said Gabaudan, now president of Refugees International. “I’m sure this immense knowledge of past and ancient history did inform his political judgment.”

Guterres also took a broad approach to the UNHCR’s responsibilities. The organisation grew dramatically under his management, and not just because the number of the world’s refugees soared in the 21st century. He broadened the categories of people the UNHCR would seek to protect, including internally displaced people and migrants forced from their homes by natural disasters and climate change. He preferred the all-encompassing phrase “people on the move”.

He managed to persuade donors to fund the expansion by retaining their confidence that the money was well spent, and to do that he cut overheads.

Guterres, then UN high commissioner for refugees, visits Ikafe camp for Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda.
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Guterres, then UN high commissioner for refugees, visits Ikafe camp for Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda in June 2005. Photograph: Radu Sigheti/Reuters
“Like all UN organisations, as the organisation had grown up, it had become a little bit top-heavy and one of his first actions was really to slim down headquarters fairly substantially. He sent people back to the field and he put some of the services in much cheaper places than Geneva,” Gabaudan said.

“He never thought the details of finance were just for the technicians. I saw him looking at spreadsheets faster than his financial officer, spotting the line or column where we had a problem. So he was really as much hands-on about how the organisation worked as he was the top political figure and spokesman for refugees.”

When Justin Forsyth was chief executive of Save the Children UK, he travelled with Guterres to refugee camps in Lebanon, and recalled Guterres meeting a group of children. “The thing that struck me was him cross-legged on the floor of a tent talking to children. He really listens and he asks questions and he’s very moved by what he hears. He gets his hands dirty,” said Forsyth, the new deputy executive director of Unicef, the UN children’s charity.

Guterres’s tenure as high commissioner has attracted some criticism. Some former officials said he should have spoken out more strongly in defence of refugee rights enshrined in the 1951 refugee convention. “His record is very mixed, particularly on protection. His tenure was a rough time for the protection of refugees,” a former senior UN official said. He pointed to Thailand forcibly repatriating ethnic Uighurs to China despite the risk they would face persecution.

He argued that a tripartite agreement the UNHCR made with Kenya and Somalia on the voluntary return of Somali refugees had paved the way for the reported forced repatriations now under way in Kenya aimed at emptying its biggest camp, at Dadaab.

The former official said the EU’s deal with Turkey to repatriate refugees, also widely seen as a violation of basic principles of refugee protection, was largely negotiated while Guterres was at the helm, even if it was only signed in March this year, three months after he left.

“His style is to make general statements on the issue but not to directly challenge governments on their actions,” the former official said. “It raises concerns on what he would be like as secretary general.”

Jeff Crisp, who was head of UNHCR policy development and evaluation under Guterres and is now a research associate at the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre, said not all the criticisms could be pointed at the secretary general designate.

He said the UNHCR did push back against infringements of refugee rights by European states and had been strongly critical of the EU-Turkey deal. And he argued the tendency to address abuses by authoritarian states by behind-the-scenes persuasion had historically been the “institutional approach” taken by the UNHCR, before and after Guterres.

“I think you have to understand that UNHCR’s public criticism of states is very carefully calibrated and in general the more liberal a state is, the more publicly the UNHCR will criticise it,” Crisp said.

Adaptable, consensual, affable, intellectual, Guterres is perhaps better qualified than any of his nine predecessors for the world’s most demanding job. But one of his deftest skills he learned not from the hurly burly of Portuguese politics, nor from the harrowing years at the UNHCR, but from his first wife.

At a Guardian event last June in which he debated with rivals for the secretary general job, he said her psychoanalytical insights were highly valuable. “She taught me something that was extremely useful for all my political activities. When two people are together, they are not two but six. What each one is, what each one thinks he or she is and what each one thinks the other is,” he said.


“And what is true for people is also true for countries and organisations. One of the roles of the secretary general when dealing with the different key actors in each scenario is to bring these six into two. That the misunderstandings disappear and the false perceptions disappear. Perceptions are essential in politics.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

BREAKING — THE DANGLING FRUIT IN FRONT OF TRUMP: Ford is canceling plans to build a new manufacturing plant in Mexico and instead is investing $700 million in Michigan. The company’s CEO Mark Fields told CNN that the move is a “vote of confidence” in President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to create a pro-business environment. Fields emphasized, however, that he did not negotiate any special deal with Trump. “We didn’t cut a deal with Trump,” he said. “We did it for our business.” bit.ly/2j4UZZ4

U.N.’s Israel vote: The House will vote Thursday on a resolution disapproving of the United Nations Security Council resolution criticizing Israel’s settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Many Democrats could join with Republicans to pass the measure as a means of demonstrating their support for Israel, even if their votes would put them at odds with President Obama. The U.S. refused to veto the Security Council resolution and instead abstained from the vote.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

ISRAELI-INNOVATION By REUTERS \ 01/03/2017 14:05

Israeli firm creates autonomous aircraft that goes where no helicopter dares.
New Israeli tech sees machines leading the blind.


An autonomous aircraft the size of a car could revolutionize aviation by flying in areas currently inaccessible to aircraft, according to its Israeli developers.

After 15 years of development, an Israeli tech firm are optimistic of finally get their one-and-a-half tonne people-carrying drone off the ground and into the market.

The Cormorant aircraft, billed as a flying car capable of transporting 500kg of weight and traveling at 115 mph, completed its first automated solo flight in November, taking off, flying and landing by itself.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 31st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


We’re Living Through the First World Cyberwar – but Just Haven’t Called It That

By Martin Belam, Guardian UK
30 December 16

Nation states have been attacking each other electronically for a decade or more. Historians will eventually give it a name and a start and end date
he job of the historian is often to pull together broad themes and trends, then give them a snappy title that people will easily recognise and understand. That’s how we end up with labels like “The decline and fall of the Roman Empire” or “The Rise of Hitler and the Third Reich”.

As someone who studied history, I’ve had this lingering curiosity about how historians of the future will view our times. It is easy to imagine textbooks in a hundred years with chapters that start with Reagan and Thatcher and end with the global financial crisis and called something like The Western Neoliberal Consensus 1979-2008.

But contemporaries seldom refer to events with these names, or can see the sharp lines that the future will draw. It wouldn’t have seemed obvious with the capture of Calais in 1347 that this decisive siege was just one early development in a dynastic struggle that would come to be known as the hundred years war.

This always makes me wonder what broader patterns we might be missing in our own lives, and I’ve come round to thinking that we might already be living through the first world cyberwar – it’s just that we haven’t acknowledged or named it yet.

What might a timeline of that war look like to a future historian? Well, 2007 seems like a good bet as a starting point – with a concerted series of cyber-attacks on Estonia. These were particularly effective, because the Baltic state has pushed so much of its public life online. The attacks were generally regarded to have come from Russia with state approval. That’s just one reason why I suspect cyberwarfare will provoke endless debates among historians.

Cyberwarfare is clearly a front where nation states will try to gain advantage over each other and make plans for attack and defence. But, like espionage, it is a murky world where it is hard for outsiders to get an exact grasp on what is being done. Nation states seldom openly claim credit for hacking.

In 2008 there were events that a historian might weave into a narrative of a global cyberwar, when several underwater internet cables were cut during the course of the year, interrupting internet communication and particularly affecting the Middle East. Some have argued these were accidents caused by ships dragging their anchors, but they mostly remain unsolved mysteries, with the suspicion that only state actors would have the required equipment and knowledge to target the cables. Of course, it might have just been sharks.

In 2010 the Stuxnet worm was used to attack Iran’s nuclear program. Carried on Microsoft Windows machines, and specifically targeting software from Siemens, Stuxnet was reported to have successfully damaged the fast-spinning centrifuges used to develop nuclear material in Iran. Analysts at the time thought the computer virus so sophisticated that it must have been developed with state support – with fingers frequently pointed at the US and/or the Israelis.

Another event from 2010, the WikiLeaks American embassy cables release, which the Guardian participated in the publication of, would be irresistible for a historian to refer to in this context. It is also one of the things that makes the first world cyberwar different from conventional warfare – the mix of nation states being involved with pressure groups, whistleblowers and hackers. As well as the state apparatus, a history of this period of electronic warfare would have to name Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Anonymous and the Syrian Electronic Army as key players.

We are definitely living through something global in scope. North Korea has been suspected of hacking as a way to achieve diplomatic goals. The FBI publicly accused it of hacking Sony Pictures in 2014, exposing confidential company information. It was a hack of a Japanese company, targeted by an Asian state, with the aim of pressuring the US arm of the company over a movie.

Along the way there have been other equally odd quirks of war – the infected USB keys distributed at a US military base in 2008, or the curious laptop theft at a facility in Scotland that had recently received an official Chinese delegation.

The one that historians will be unable to ignore though is the 2016 US election campaign being influenced by alleged hacked and leaked emails – and the open speculation there was an attempt to hack into election counting machines by a foreign power. It might be unprecedented, but it isn’t going to go away. Yesterday Obama announced retaliation from the US and Germany is already braced for interference in its 2017 elections.

What reason is there to suppose that these events might eventually be grouped together as a single world cyberwar by historians? Well, for me, it is the idea that hostilities might formally come to an end.

You can envisage a scenario where Russia, China and the US can see a mutual benefit in de-escalating cyber-attacks between the three of them, and also begin to collectively worry about cyberwarfare capabilities being developed in a range of smaller nation states. Cue a UN summit about cyberwarfare, and the development of some code of conduct, or an anti-cyberwarfare treaty that provides historians with a neat endpoint.

It isn’t, of course, that nation states would stop electronic surveillance or building up hacking capabilities, but as with most wars that don’t deliver a decisive victory, eventually they become too expensive and too disruptive to maintain.

It is important to remember that the internet originally came from defence research, designed to provide communications capabilities in the event of a nuclear attack. It wouldn’t surprise me if in a hundred years it is the military purpose that historians mainly remember it for, and that we are living through the first time it is being used in anger.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Trump and Putin meeting to follow on the G.W. Bush and Putin meeting of June 2001 in Slovenia. Trump’s Appointed House Members will already have softened Trump to the point of being the pushover he is prepared to be.

By Dana Milbank Opinion writer December 27 at 12:32 PM

“Spare us the kissy-face.”

It was June 2001 and I was in an Alpine hamlet in Slovenia, where President George W. Bush had just met Vladimir Putin for the first time. I and others were struck by Bush’s praise for the Russian leader as “trustworthy.” Said Bush: “I was able to get a sense of his soul.”

But back in Washington, my editor had no interest in such talk. He rewrote my lede with other news — a tidbit about missile defense — and he moved the “kissy-face” stuff about Putin’s soul down to Paragraph 18.

In retrospect, that moment in Slovenia defined the Russia relationship for years to come. Putin had seduced Bush, who only slowly came to understand he had misjudged this adversary’s soul. Putin opposed Bush in Iraq and was unhelpful with Iran. He shut down independent television, sent business leaders who criticized him into exile and prison, ousted democratic parties from government, canceled the election of governors and invaded Georgia.

The kissy-face happened all over again when President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to “reset” relations. Russia responded by working against the United States in Syria, sheltering Edward Snowden, invading and occupying parts of Ukraine, and hacking and meddling in the U.S. election to defeat Clinton.

Now it’s Donald Trump’s turn for kissy-face, and the president-elect is practically groping the Russian dictator. After Putin gloated Friday that Democrats need to learn “to lose with dignity,”Trump tweeted Putin a sloppy kiss: “So true!” he said of Putin’s comments.

Trump also celebrated a letter he received from Putin calling for more collaboration between the two countries. “His thoughts are so correct,” Trump said.

Trump’s blush-inducing embrace of the strongman has included repeated praise of Putin’s leadership, deflected questions about Putin’s political killings and disparagement of U.S. intelligence for accusing Russia of election meddling.

In three weeks, Trump will assume the presidency, and we’ll learn what his embrace of Putin really means. Perhaps Trump is just a dupe and he’ll realize over time that Putin is no friend. The alternative, supported by Trump’s choice of Putin-friendly advisers Michael T. Flynn and Rex Tillerson, is that Trump really is pro-Putin and will grant the Russian dictator more latitude internationally and will emulate his autocratic tendencies at home.

The former would require us to endure some policy failures as Putin proved himself again to be an adversary. The latter would test the limits of our democratic institutions.

In either case, it would be useful for Americans to have at least a cursory sense of the man our new president proposes to embrace. Here’s a quick glimpse into Putin’s soul to get us started:

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was killed outside the Kremlin as he walked home one night last year. Putin’s regime blames Chechens, but Nemtsov’s is one of a dozen high-profile murders of opponents widely thought to have been sanctioned by Putin’s government.

Another Putin opponent, Alexander Litvinenko, was killed in London by polonium poisoning in 2006. The British government said Putin “probably” approved the hit. That same year, opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot and killed outside her apartment.

In 2009, lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in prison after being denied medical care. Others working on his investigation of corrupt Russian politicians also died suspiciously.

Among the many business leaders imprisoned or ousted under Putin are Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was head of the oil giant Yukos, and associate Platon Lebedev. The Russian human rights group Memorial says there are 102 people held in Russian prisons for their political or religious beliefs.

The Kremlin has provided funding and training for far-right nationalist parties in Europe, and it used its state media and an army of hackers and social-media trolls to spread disinformation in the United States, in continental Europe and in Britain before the Brexit vote. The goals: to weaken European unity and the NATO alliance and to keep Europe dependent on Russian energy.

Russia also used disinformation to destabilize the Ukrainian government as Russia annexed Crimea. In Syria, where Russia propped up the Assad regime with indiscriminate bombing in Aleppo and elsewhere, Britain, France and the United States have blamed Putin’s government for the mass slaughter of civilians.

An Amnesty International summary of Putin’s rule leaves no doubt about his totalitarian state: “Journalist Killed .?.?. Human Rights Lawyer Killed .?.?. Gay Rights Protesters Attacked .?.?. Exhibition Organizers Sentenced .?.?. Activists Beaten and Detained .?.?. Opposition Leader Held in Detention .?.?. Repressive Laws Enacted .?.?. Fines for ‘Promoting Homosexuality’ Imposed .?.?. President Putin Signs Law to Re-criminalize Defamation .?.?. USAID Expelled .?.?. Federal Treason and Espionage Act goes into effect .?.?. Prominent NGOs are Vandalized .?.?. Moscow Authorities Detain Protesters and Opposition Party Members.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We visited the village of MARSAXLOKK, of La Valetta, Malta, as part of a MSC Splendida cruise of the Western Mediterranean. This was on a beautiful December 21, 2016 – First Winter Day. Our guide insisted in pointing out the difference from the stormy 1998 day – when right after the fall of the Berlin Wall – this bay was host to the first post Cold War meeting between the the presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union – Messrs. Gorbachev and H. W. Bush.

I decided right there to post about that old event, that closed the era codified at Yalta by the 1945 interim settlement between Stalin and Roosevelt with only Churchill sitting in. Today we seem to enter an era that replaces the global peace that came after the cold war with a Putin-Trump concordance that has the potential to destroy everything that achieved since the 1990s.

We visited today the village of MARSAXLOKK, of La Valetta, Malta, as part of a MSC Splendida cruise of the Western Mediterranean. This was a beautiful December 21, 2016 First Winter Day, and our guide insisted in pointing out the difference from the stormy 1998 day when right after the fall of the Berlin Wall this bay was host to the first post Cold War meeting between the the presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union Messrs. Gorbachev and H. W. Bush.

I decided to post about that old event, that closed the era that was codified at Yalta by the 1945 interim settlement between Stalin and Roosevelt with only Churchill sitting in. Today we seem to enter an era that replaces the global peace that came after the cold war with a Putin-Trump concordance that has the potential to destroy everything that was achieved since the 1990s.

I thought that a new meeting at MARSAXLOKK – BETWEEN PUTIN AND TRUMP – could help both of them open eyes to where they want to lead the global community that by now got glued together in a manner that it is impossible to see any of the old super-powers not cooperating, or not making place for China and India as well, or ignoring the future rise of Africa and Brazil. Could it be that we are the first to call for such a meeting? Is it really far-fetched to attribute to the present two gladiators, that will be active on the global stage into the 2017-2020 years, a sense of the need of covering each other’s back when in the midst of the aspiring powers of China, India, other Asians, and some form of a reformulated Europe. All this while basic concepts of Democracy and Human Rights are being shelved, and replaced with power of oligarchies bent on increased personal gains that leave behind hordes of malcontents – the brew of a new undertow of Despicables a la Les Miserables?

Malta Summit
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

(To be seen a Monument in Bir?ebbu?a commemorating the Malta Summit)

The Malta Summit comprised a meeting between US President George H. W. Bush and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, took place on December 2–3, 1989, just a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It was actually their second meeting following a meeting that included Ronald Reagan, in New York in December 1988.

During the summit, Bush and Gorbachev would declare an end to the Cold War although whether it was truly such – is a matter of debate. News reports of the time referred to the Malta Summit as the most important since 1945, when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed on a post-war plan for Europe at Yalta.

No agreements were signed at the Malta Summit. Its main purpose was to provide the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, with an opportunity to discuss the rapid changes taking place in Europe with the lifting of the Iron Curtain, which had separated the Eastern Bloc from Western Europe for four decades. The summit is viewed by some observers as the official end of the Cold War. At a minimum, it marked the lessening of tensions that were the hallmark of that era and signaled a major turning point in East-West relations. During the summit, President Bush expressed his support for Gorbachev’s perestroika initiative and other reforms in the Communist bloc.

The U.S. delegation:

James Baker, U.S. Secretary of State

Robert Blackwill, then Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council

Jack F. Matlock, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union

Condoleezza Rice, then Director for Soviet and East European Affairs at the National Security Council

Brent Scowcroft, U.S. National Security Adviser

Raymond Seitz, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs

John H. Sununu, White House chief of staff

Margaret Tutwiler, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Spokeswoman of the Department

Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

Robert Zoellick, Counselor of the Department of State

Venue: “From Yalta to Malta”, and back.
The meetings took place in the Mediterranean, off the island of Malta. The Soviet delegation used the missile cruiser Slava,[2][3][4] while the US delegation had their sleeping quarters aboard USS Belknap.[5][6] [7]

The ships were anchored in a roadstead off the coast of Marsaxlokk
. Stormy weather and choppy seas resulted in some meetings being cancelled or rescheduled, and gave rise to the moniker the “Seasick Summit” among international media.

In the end, the meetings took place aboard Maxsim Gorkiy, a Soviet cruise ship anchored in the harbor at Marsaxlokk.

The idea of a summit in the open sea is said to have been inspired largely by President Bush’s fascination with World War II President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s habit of meeting foreign leaders on board naval vessels.[8][9] The choice of Malta as a venue was the subject of considerable pre-summit haggling between the two superpowers. According to Condoleezza Rice:

“… it took a long time to get it arranged, finding a place, a place that would not be ceremonial,
a place where you didn’t have to do a lot of other bilaterals. And fortunately – or unfortunately – they chose Malta, which turned out to be a really horrible place to be in December.

Although the Maltese were wonderful, the weather was really bad.”[10]

The choice of venue was also highly symbolic. The Maltese Islands are strategically located at the geographic centre of the Mediterranean Sea, where east meets west and north meets south. Consequently, Malta has a long history of domination by foreign powers. It served as a British naval base during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and suffered massive destruction during World War II.

Malta declared its neutrality between the two superpowers in 1980, following the closure of British military bases and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Regional Headquarters (CINCAFMED), previously located on Malta.

Neutrality is entrenched in the Constitution of Malta, which provides as follows, at section 1(3):

“Malta is a neutral state actively pursuing peace, security and social progress among all nations by adhering to a policy of non-alignment and refusing to participate in any military alliance.”


On February 2, 1945, as the War in Europe drew to a close, Malta was the venue for the Malta Conference, an equally significant meeting between US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill prior to their Yalta meeting with Joseph Stalin. The Malta Summit of 1989 signalled a reversal of many of the decisions taken at the 1945 Yalta Conference.

See also:
Revolutions of 1989
Cold War
Cold War (1985-1991)
List of Soviet Union–United States summits
New world order (politics)
References:
Jump up^ “An Interview with Dr. Condoleezza Rice (17/12/97)”
Jump up^ www.nytimes.com/1989/12/03/world/…
Jump up^ articles.latimes.com/1989-12-02/n…
Jump up^ articles.chicagotribune.com/1989-…
Jump up^ www.nytimes.com/1989/12/03/world/…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 20th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Climate talks: ‘Save us’ from global warming, US urged.

By Matt McGrath
Environment correspondent

BBC Science & Environment
19 November 2016

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama told the conference that climate change was not a hoax
The next head of the UN global climate talks has appealed for the US to “save” Pacific islands from the impacts of global warming.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said that the islands needed the US now as much as they did during World War Two.

He was speaking as global climate talks in Marrakech came to an end.

Mr Bainimarama said that climate change was not a hoax, as US President-elect Donald Trump has claimed.

Mr Trump has promised to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement and scrap all payments for UN global warming projects.

But as he accepted the role of president of the Conference of the Parties for the year ahead, the Fijian leader took the opportunity to call on to the next US president to step away from his scepticism.
“I again appeal to the President-elect of the US Donald Trump to show leadership on this issue by abandoning his position that man-made climate change is a hoax,” said Mr Bainimarama.
“On the contrary, the global scientific consensus is that it is very real and we must act more decisively to avoid catastrophe.”


He also made a direct call to the American people to come to their aid in the face of rising seas, driven by global warming.
“We in the Pacific, in common with the whole world, look to America for the leadership and engagement and assistance on climate change just as we looked to America in the dark days of World War Two.
“I say to the American people, you came to save us then, and it is time for you to help save us now.”
After two weeks of talks here in Marrakech, participants arrived at a consensus on the next steps forward for the landmark climate treaty.

This gathering saw the opening of CMA1, the Conference of the Parties meeting as the signatories of the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rises.
CMA1 will be the formal UN body that will run, manage and set the rules for the operation of the Paris treaty.


UK joins the club

The number of countries who have ratified the agreement jumped above 100 with the UK joining during the last few days of the conference.
“Delegates in Marrakech made crucial progress in building the foundation to support the Paris agreement, which went into force just days before COP22,” said Paula Caballero from the World Resources Institute.

“Most importantly, negotiators agreed to finalise the rules of the Paris Agreement by 2018 and developed a clear roadmap to meet that deadline.”

US secretary of state John Kerry gave an impassioned speech in Marrakech, his last climate conference while in office

The participants also agreed the Marrakech Proclamation, a statement re-affirming the intentions of all 197 signatories to the Paris deal.

Seen as show of unity on the issue in the light a possible US withdrawal, countries stated they would live up to their promises to reduce emissions. The proclamation also called on all states to increase their carbon cutting ambitions, urgently.

Some of the poorest nations in the world announced that they were moving towards 100% green energy at this meeting.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum said that the 47 member countries, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Yemen, would achieve this goal between 2030 and 2050. And they challenged richer countries to do the same.

Despite these steps forward there were still some areas of significant difference between the parties, especially over money. The talks will continue in 2017 with a new US delegation picked by the Trump administration.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 16th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Monsanto Goes on Trial for Ecocide

By MercoPress
posted also by Readers Supported News
15 October 16

his symbolic trial, which will be live streamed from Oct. 15, 8:30 a.m. GMT+2 on the tribunal website, will follow guidelines of the United Nations’ international court of justice and will have no legal standing. Rather, its purpose is to gather legal counsel from the judges as well as legal grounds for future litigation.

”The aim of the tribunal is to give a legal opinion on the environmental and health damage caused by the multinational Monsanto,“ the tribunal organizers state on their website. ”This will add to the international debate to include the crime of Ecocide into international criminal law. It will also give people all over the world a well documented legal file to be used in lawsuits against Monsanto and similar chemical companies.”

Monsanto, which is inching closer to a US$ 66bn takeover from German pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, has faced a never-ending slew of health and environmental controversies over its products since, well, the beginning of the twenty first century.

Monsanto’s historical line-up of products includes banned and highly toxic chemicals such as 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant Agent Orange); PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyl); and Lasso, a herbicide banned in Europe. Glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling weed-killer RoundUp, is the most widely used pesticide in the world. Monsanto is also the world’s largest genetically modified (GMO) seed maker, giving them a major hand over the world food supply

The trial, which will proceed on the same weekend as World Food Day, is organized by Organic Consumers Association, International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) Organics International, Navdanya, Regeneration International, Millions Against Monsanto as well as dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups.

Monsanto Corporate Engagement office has stated that “in growing our food, farmers face some tough challenges as the world’s population continues to grow. To address these ever increasing challenges collaboratively and advance our commitment to human rights, we welcome a genuine constructive conversation with diverse ideas and perspectives about food and agriculture production.

”This mock trial is not a real dialogue but a stunt staged by the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM), Organic Consumers Association and others who are fundamentally opposed to modern agriculture innovation, where anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics play organizers, judge and jury, and where the outcome is pre-determined. Here is a link to our Open Letter regarding this mock trial.

—————–
Comments:

+1 # guomashi 2016-10-15 14:01
Where is the link to the Open Letter regarding the mock trial?

.. not that I would read it or anyone would believe it.

May Monsanto rot in hell.
They are now going around to all the farms they can and testing the produce to see if any of it got cross-pollinate d with their patented life-forms.
Then they sue.
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 15th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Asia Society’s Executive Vice President Tom Nagorski invited the working press of New York City – that is the people reporting about activities in New York – rather then only those accredited only to the UN enclave – to tell us about the ASIA GAME CHANGERS AWARDS – perennial recognition of remarkable pioneering leaders and institutions that mostly work in a bottoms-up mode and manage to achieve things that major institution were not able to achieve. Having said this – let me also note that usually a very well established person – someone that has achieved the status of Malala Yousafai or Jack Ma are also recognized – this as they are now targets to demonstrate what an ASIAN can achieve.

The well wetted former contestants that were proposed by peers or establishment, vetted by the Asia Society, presented to the UN, are then honored at an Awards Dinner at the UN – bringing honor to the UN that the UN never deserved. Do not fret – that is how the World Works – luckily there are good people available sometimes where you expect it the least.

This year’s Underwriters of the Asia Society project are Citibank, United Airlines and Pepsico and the Awards Dinner and Celebration will be held at the UN on October 27, 2016 – at the tail-end of this year’s UN General Assembly.

This year’s list of ASIA GAME CHANGERS is headed by the iconic figure of Architect I.M. Pei (US/China) who is celebrated for Lifetime Achievements.

The other awardees in alphabetic order are:

– Muzoon Almellehan of Syria – for bringing education and hope to young girls, amid the trauma of war. She just turned 18 and had started her activities among the refugees in Jordan where her family fled from the Syrian little town – Dura.
She lives now in Newcastle, England where she can continue her own education.

– Marita Cheng of Australia – For engineering a betterv world, and ensuring that more of the engineers are women.
She is an Entrepreneur. She is 30 years old and created an app that helps women. She might br presented as someone who has achieved the kind of status Ms. Almellehan was fighting for.

– Soo-man Lee of South Korea – For turning her Nation’s pop culture into a global phenomenon.
She is the founder and producer of S.M. brand entertainment and “K-pop.”

– Sanduk Ruit of Nepal – an Eye-Surgeon – who brought the gift of sight, and productive life, by making available cataract removal to those in need. He did this for 100,000 people in Nepal and started programs in other countries including North Korea. He institutes this with mobilized centers going to the people.

– Ahmad Sarmast (afghanistan/Australia) – For restoring music and empowering children – in a war-ravaged nation.

– Dureen Shahnaz of Bangladesh – For “social-impact” investing that has changed the game for millions.
Founder of the Impact Investment Exchange Asia. She teaches the reinvestment of the return from investment in order to lead to growth.

– Karim Wasfi of Iraq – for using music to heal, in the aftermath of terror.
He is a renown cellist, conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra.

At the diner there will be a chance to listen also to a 13 year old kid from Bali who is already a good piano player and Game Changer in the making.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Zarif is Right but his advice is old hat to us – Stop the Contrived Dependence on Oil – the only way that Unties the US from its Slavery to Saudi Arabia.

Zarif talks of WAVE – “World Against Violent Extremism” – and wants this to become a UN sponsored policy with the understanding that it is the Saudi Petrodollars that led to the destruction of Syria and that Wahhabi Sunni Extremism has not led only to attacks on Christians, Jews, and Shia, but also on the destruction of more normal Sunni communities that thrived in Syria and all ver the World. His pinpointing the Saudis and their enslavement to Wahhabism comes naturally to an Iranian who is part of a mainly Shia Nation that also an oil exporter – but nevertheless – his analysis is correct.

The posting of the Zarif column by The New York Times comes at a time President Obama has announced that he will VETO the bill in case Congress votes to allow Court cases against Saudi Arabia as having been in part responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the like of sane people jumping to their death because of crimes committed by Saudi citizens proven to have been aided by their government.

Please note – this is a rare occasion we have no understanding for a President Obama held position. In effect he seems to side with the GW Bush position when he released the Bin Laden family and sent them home from an airport that was closed to American citizens.

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR to The New York Times

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism

By MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF – September 13, 2016
Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

From Tehran: Public relations firms with no qualms about taking tainted petrodollars are experiencing a bonanza. Their latest project has been to persuade us that the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, is no more. As a Nusra spokesman told CNN, the rebranded rebel group, supposedly separated from its parent terrorist organization, has become “moderate.”

Thus is fanaticism from the Dark Ages sold as a bright vision for the 21st century. The problem for the P.R. firms’ wealthy, often Saudi, clients, who have lavishly funded Nusra, is that the evidence of their ruinous policies can’t be photoshopped out of existence. If anyone had any doubt, the recent video images of other “moderates” beheading a 12-year-old boy were a horrifying reality check.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, militant Wahhabism has undergone a series of face-lifts, but underneath, the ideology remains the same — whether it’s the Taliban, the various incarnations of Al Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State, which is neither Islamic nor a state. But the millions of people faced with the Nusra Front’s tyranny are not buying the fiction of this disaffiliation. Past experience of such attempts at whitewashing points to the real aim: to enable the covert flow of petrodollars to extremist groups in Syria to become overt, and even to lure Western governments into supporting these “moderates.” The fact that Nusra still dominates the rebel alliance in Aleppo flouts the public relations message.

Saudi Arabia’s effort to persuade its Western patrons to back its shortsighted tactics is based on the false premise that plunging the Arab world into further chaos will somehow damage Iran. The fanciful notions that regional instability will help to “contain” Iran, and that supposed rivalries between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are fueling conflicts, are contradicted by the reality that the worst bloodshed in the region is caused by Wahhabists fighting fellow Arabs and murdering fellow Sunnis.

While these extremists, with the backing of their wealthy sponsors, have targeted Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Shiites and other “heretics,” it is their fellow Sunni Arabs who have been most beleaguered by this exported doctrine of hate. Indeed, it is not the supposed ancient sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites but the contest between Wahhabism and mainstream Islam that will have the most profound consequences for the region and beyond.

While the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq set in motion the fighting we see today, the key driver of violence has been this extremist ideology promoted by Saudi Arabia — even if it was invisible to Western eyes until the tragedy of 9/11.

The princes in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, have been desperate to revive the regional status quo of the days of Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq, when a surrogate repressive despot, eliciting wealth and material support from fellow Arabs and a gullible West, countered the so-called Iranian threat. There is only one problem: Mr. Hussein is long dead, and the clock cannot be turned back.

The sooner Saudi Arabia’s rulers come to terms with this, the better for all. The new realities in our region can accommodate even Riyadh, should the Saudis choose to change their ways.

What would change mean? Over the past three decades, Riyadh has spent tens of billions of dollars exporting Wahhabism through thousands of mosques and madrasas across the world. From Asia to Africa, from Europe to the Americas, this theological perversion has wrought havoc. As one former extremist in Kosovo told The Times, “The Saudis completely changed Islam here with their money.”

Though it has attracted only a minute proportion of Muslims, Wahhabism has been devastating in its impact. Virtually every terrorist group abusing the name of Islam — from Al Qaeda and its offshoots in Syria to Boko Haram in Nigeria — has been inspired by this death cult.

So far, the Saudis have succeeded in inducing their allies to go along with their folly, whether in Syria or Yemen, by playing the “Iran card.” That will surely change, as the realization grows that Riyadh’s persistent sponsorship of extremism repudiates its claim to be a force for stability.

The world cannot afford to sit by and witness Wahhabists targeting not only Christians, Jews and Shiites but also Sunnis. With a large section of the Middle East in turmoil, there is a grave danger that the few remaining pockets of stability will be undermined by this clash of Wahhabism and mainstream Sunni Islam.

There needs to be coordinated action at the United Nations to cut off the funding for ideologies of hate and extremism, and a willingness from the international community to investigate the channels that supply the cash and the arms. In 2013, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, proposed an initiative called World Against Violent Extremism, or WAVE. The United Nations should build on that framework to foster greater dialogue between religions and sects to counter this dangerous medieval fanaticism.

The attacks in Nice, Paris and Brussels should convince the West that the toxic threat of Wahhabism cannot be ignored. After a year of almost weekly tragic news, the international community needs to do more than express outrage, sorrow and condolences; concrete action against extremism is needed.

Though much of the violence committed in the name of Islam can be traced to Wahhabism, I by no means suggest that Saudi Arabia cannot be part of the solution. Quite the reverse: We invite Saudi rulers to put aside the rhetoric of blame and fear, and join hands with the rest of the community of nations to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and violence that threatens us all.

————————————————————————————-
Mohammad Javad Zarif is the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 14th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

It is known that the world produces enough food for everyone but why do 800 million in the world still go to bed hungry?

GODAN has the answer to end this suffering – opening data on agriculture and nutrition – which will also stimulate global GDP by $6 trillion

What does the climate mean for food security?

In December 2015, 195 countries agreed to the Paris Agreement –the agreement that nations around the world would be committed to keeping the average global temperature increase at well below 2 ºC and at no more than 1.5 ºC from 2020 onwards. As of August 2016, 180 countries have signed the agreement – but average global temperatures have already reached 1.3 ºC. Coupled with the occurrence of the El-Nino, it is undeniable that the climate is having a huge impact on our planet, as more countries are affected by record breaking and unusual weather. But what impact is this weather having on our food supplies? And if there is more to come, what can we do about it?

To see the impact that climate has on food one only has to look at the spate of droughts that multiple parts of the world have been experiencing in the last decade. Ethiopia experienced its worst drought in decades earlier this year, causing crop failure and the loss of livestock. This was followed by heavy rains that further aggravated the agricultural disruption.

Ethiopia has made great strides since the famine of the 1980s. It has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and thanks to working with the information and expertise of international aid organisations was able to build a food security system which, despite the desperate situation of the drought, has allowed the country to stay out of famine. Given that 43% of the country’s economy[1] relies on agriculture and it forms the livelihood of much of the country’s rural population, food security for Ethiopia has meant more than food reserves.

The government, with the help of aid groups, have made a sustained effort to support farmers over the last decade, which has included launching open data for agriculture and socio-economic wellbeing in early 2015. This open data included detailed agricultural practices, information on health and data on food consumption and security. Ethiopia’s recent drought has been devastating –but the government’s attempt to mitigate its effects through years of investment in food security and making agricultural data available has allowed the country to escape the worst.

Meanwhile, a long drought over the past six years in California has caused water shortages, cost farmers billions of dollars with serious concerns over food security. Within California, residents have felt the impact of reducing water consumptions, and given that the state alone accounts ¼ of the USA’s fruit and vegetable produce[2], the implications of continued drought are concerning.

California has the benefit of being a state within the richest and most powerful country on Earth. The citizens of California have had access to public information giving them guidance on how best to cope throughout. The US Department of Agriculture has been monitoring the progress of the drought and its effect on everything from Californian farms to food prices, the results of which is open data that is publically available to all who need it. Although thousands of farmers[3] have lost their livelihood, and the drought continues, the data and information made available by the US government has been invaluable in keeping the farmers of California informed of the drought’s progress and in allowing them to maintain food security through substitution and diversification of their produce.

The impacts of both droughts are having a drastic effect on the availability of food. As the climate continues to become more extreme, the issue of food security will become more urgent. But as Ethiopia and California have shown, open data on agriculture, weather trends and more can help farmers and governments alike prepare and adapt to some of the worst conditions for agriculture imaginable. That’s why it is so important to make vital agricultural data available for all who could use it.

GODAN (Global Open Data on Agriculture and Nutrition) aims to do just that. In New York City on September 15-16, the GODAN Summit 2016 is taking place, lobbying world leaders to open up their agricultural and nutrition data. Government ministers from Kenya and the UK will be in attendance, alongside open data activists, scientists and other leading figures, all of whom will be discussing the benefits of making relevant data available to everyone. There will also be a hackathon that will see the brightest and most disruptive young minds doing their bit to come up with innovative new open data solutions.

But GODAN needs your support. We have launched a petition in association with Global Citizen. Once complete, the petition will be presented to the world’s leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, calling on them to make agricultural and nutrition data open. Help secure food security for the world by signing the petition today: summit.godan.info/register/

Key Questions:

· Why are governments hiding this data that could end world hunger?

· How can data truly better agriculture and farming in 3rd world countries?

· There is enough food in the world so why are 800 million people hungry?

· Technology really is saving the world, but how?

· How will open data affect health issues globally?

· What does this mean for the agriculture industry?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 28th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

PLEASE STUDY:  www.nytimes.com/2016/08/26/world/…

THIS IS A VERY LATE ARRIVAL – BUT CAN IT NOW CHANGE POLICY? WILL PRESIDENT OBAMA – IN HIS LAST 10 WEEKS IN OFFICE AFTER THE NOVEMBER 2016 ELECTIONS DO WHAT IT TAKES TO DECLARE US INDEPENDENCE OF MIDDLE EAST OIL?

This article tells us what we at SustainabiliTank knew for years – the oil money was used by the Saudi Royal family to export Wahhabism to the Islamic world. This Wahhabi indoctrination gave birth to the culture of terrorism that surfaced at the 9/11 attack against humanity. The US government – that is all US governments – to be exact – starting with President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt who in his 1945 meetings at Yalta and on the ship in Suez – traded away the future of the West for the barrels of oil of the Middle East

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THE NEW YORK TIMES – Front-page August 25,2016

Saudis and Extremism:
‘Both the Arsonists
and the Firefighters’

Critics see Saudi Arabia’s export of a rigid strain of Islam as contributing to
terrorism, but the kingdom’s influence depends greatly on local conditions.

By SCOTT SHANE August 25, 2016

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump do not agree on much, but Saudi Arabia may be an exception. She has deplored Saudi Arabia’s support for “radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.” He has called the Saudis “the world’s biggest funders of terrorism.”

The first American diplomat to serve as envoy to Muslim communities around the world visited 80 countries and concluded that the Saudi influence was destroying tolerant Islamic traditions. “If the Saudis do not cease what they are doing,”
the official, Farah Pandith, wrote last year, “there must be diplomatic, cultural and economic consequences.”

“If the Saudis do not
cease what they are
doing, there must be
diplomatic, cultural and
economic consequences.”
FARAH PANDITH, A STATE DEPARTMENT REPRESENTATIVE TO MUSLIM COMMUNITIES

“If there was going to be
an Islamic reformation in
the 20th century, the
Saudis probably prevented
it by pumping out literalism.”
THOMAS HEGGHAMMER, NORWEGIAN TERRORISM EXPERT

And hardly a week passes without a television pundit or a newspaper columnist blaming Saudi Arabia for jihadist violence.

On HBO, Bill Maher calls Saudi teachings “medieval,” adding an epithet. In The Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria writes that the Saudis have “created a monster in the world of Islam.”

The idea has become a commonplace: that Saudi Arabia’s export of the rigid, bigoted, patriarchal, fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism has fueled global extremism and contributed to terrorism. As the Islamic State projects its menacing calls for violence into the West, directing or inspiring terrorist attacks in country after country, an old debate over Saudi influence on Islam has taken on new relevance.

What Is Wahhabism?

The Islam taught in and by Saudi Arabia is often called Wahhabism, after the 18th-century cleric who founded it. A literalist, ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam, its adherents often denigrate other Islamic sects as well as Christians and Jews.

Is the world today a more divided, dangerous and violent place because of the cumulative effect of five decades of oil-financed proselytizing from the historical heart of the Muslim world? Or is Saudi Arabia, which has often supported Western-friendly autocrats over Islamists, merely a convenient scapegoat for extremism and terrorism with many complex causes — the United States’s own actions among them?

Those questions are deeply contentious, partly because of the contradictory impulses of the Saudi state.

In the realm of extremist Islam, the Saudis are “both the arsonists and the firefighters,” said William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar. “They promote a very toxic form of Islam that draws sharp lines between a small number of true believers and everyone else, Muslim and non-Muslim,” he said, providing ideological fodder for violent jihadists.

Yet at the same time, “they’re our partners in counterterrorism,” said Mr. McCants, one of three dozen academics, government officials and experts on Islam from multiple countries interviewed for this article.


Conflicting Goals

Saudi leaders seek good relations with the West and see jihadist violence as a menace that could endanger their rule, especially now that the Islamic State is staging attacks in the kingdom — 25 in the last eight months, by the government’s count. But they are also driven by their rivalry with Iran, and they depend for legitimacy on a clerical establishment dedicated to a reactionary set of beliefs. Those conflicting goals can play out in a bafflingly inconsistent manner.

Thomas Hegghammer, a Norwegian terrorism expert who has advised the United States government, said the most important effect of Saudi proselytizing might have been to slow the evolution of Islam, blocking its natural accommodation to a diverse and globalized world. “If there was going to be an Islamic reformation in the 20th century, the Saudis probably prevented it by pumping out literalism,” he said.

The reach of the Saudis has been stunning, touching nearly every country with a Muslim population, from the Gothenburg Mosque in Sweden to the King Faisal Mosque in Chad, from the King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles to the Seoul Central Mosque in South Korea. Support has come from the Saudi government; the royal family; Saudi charities; and Saudi-sponsored organizations including the World Muslim League, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the International Islamic Relief Organization, providing the hardware of impressive edifices and the software of preaching and teaching.

There is a broad consensus that the Saudi ideological juggernaut has disrupted local Islamic traditions in dozens of countries — the result of lavish spending on religious outreach for half a century, estimated in the tens of billions of dollars. The result has been amplified by guest workers, many from South Asia, who spend years in Saudi Arabia and bring Saudi ways home with them. In many countries, Wahhabist preaching has encouraged a harshly judgmental religion, contributing to majority support in some polls in Egypt, Pakistan and other countries for stoning for adultery and execution for anyone trying to leave Islam.

But exactly how Saudi influence plays out seems to depend greatly on local conditions. In parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, for instance, Saudi teachings have shifted the religious culture in a markedly conservative direction, most visibly in the decision of more women to cover their hair or of men to grow beards. Among Muslim immigrant communities in Europe, the Saudi influence seems to be just one factor driving radicalization, and not the most significant. In divided countries like Pakistan and Nigeria, the flood of Saudi money, and the ideology it promotes, have exacerbated divisions over religion that regularly prove lethal.

For minorities in many countries, the exclusionary Saudi version of Sunni Islam, with its denigration of Jews and Christians, as well as of Muslims of Shiite, Sufi and other traditions, may have made some people vulnerable to the lure of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other violent jihadist groups. “There’s only so much dehumanizing of the other that you can be exposed to — and exposed to as the word of God — without becoming susceptible to recruitment,” said David Andrew Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington who tracks Saudi influence.

Exhibit A may be Saudi Arabia itself, which produced not only Osama bin Laden, but also 15 of the 19 hijackers of Sept. 11, 2001; sent more suicide bombers than any other country to Iraq after the 2003 invasion; and has supplied more foreign fighters to the Islamic State, 2,500, than any country other than Tunisia.

Mehmet Gormez, the senior Islamic cleric in Turkey, said that while he was meeting with Saudi clerics in Riyadh in January, the Saudi authorities had executed 47 people in a single day on terrorism charges, 45 of them Saudi citizens. “I said: ‘These people studied Islam for 10 or 15 years in your country. Is there a problem with the educational system?’ ” Mr. Gormez said in an interview. He argued that Wahhabi teaching was undermining the pluralism, tolerance and openness to science and learning that had long characterized Islam. “Sadly,” he said, the changes have taken place “in almost all of the Islamic world.”

In a huge embarrassment to the Saudi authorities, the Islamic State adopted official Saudi textbooks for its schools until the extremist group could publish its own books in 2015. Out of 12 works by Muslim scholars republished by the Islamic State, seven are by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the 18th-century founder of the Saudi school of Islam, said Jacob Olidort, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Adil al-Kalbani declared with regret in a television interview in January that the Islamic State leaders “draw their ideas from what is written in our own books, our own principles.”

Small details of Saudi practice can cause outsize trouble. For at least two decades, the kingdom has distributed an English translation of the Quran that in the first surah, or chapter, adds parenthetical references to Jews and Christians in addressing Allah: “those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).” Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University and the editor in chief of the new Study Quran, an annotated English version, said the additions were “a complete heresy, with no basis in Islamic tradition.”

Accordingly, many American officials who have worked to counter extremism and terrorism have formed a dark view of the Saudi effect — even if, given the sensitivity of the relationship, they are often loath to discuss it publicly. The United States’ reliance on Saudi counterterrorism cooperation in recent years — for instance, the Saudi tip that foiled a 2010 Qaeda plot to blow up two American cargo planes — has often taken precedence over concerns about radical influence. And generous Saudi funding for professorships and research centers at American universities, including the most elite institutions, has deterred criticism and discouraged research on the effects of Wahhabi proselytizing, according to Mr. McCants — who is working on a book about the Saudi impact on global Islam — and other scholars.

One American former official who has begun to speak out is Ms. Pandith, the State Department’s first special representative to Muslim communities worldwide. From 2009 to 2014, she visited Muslims in 80 countries and concluded that Saudi influence was pernicious and universal. “In each place I visited, the Wahhabi influence was an insidious presence,” she wrote in The New York Times last year. She said the United States should “disrupt the training of extremist imams,” “reject free Saudi textbooks and translations that are filled with hate,” and “prevent the Saudis from demolishing local Muslim religious and cultural sites that are evidence of the diversity of Islam.”

Yet some scholars on Islam and extremism, including experts on radicalization in many countries, push back against the notion that Saudi Arabia bears predominant responsibility for the current wave of extremism and jihadist violence. They point to multiple sources for the rise and spread of Islamist terrorism, including repressive secular governments in the Middle East, local injustices and divisions, the hijacking of the internet for terrorist propaganda, and American interventions in the Muslim world from the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan to the invasion of Iraq. The 20th-century ideologues most influential with modern jihadists, like Sayyid Qutb of Egypt and Abul Ala Maududi of Pakistan, reached their extreme, anti-Western views without much Saudi input. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State despise Saudi rulers, whom they consider the worst of hypocrites.

“Americans like to have someone to blame — a person, a political party or country,” said Robert S. Ford, a former United States ambassador to Syria and Algeria. “But it’s a lot more complicated than that. I’d be careful about blaming the Saudis.”

While Saudi religious influence may be disruptive, he and others say, its effect is not monolithic. A major tenet of official Saudi Islamic teaching is obedience to rulers — hardly a precept that encourages terrorism intended to break nations. Many Saudi and Saudi-trained clerics are quietist, characterized by a devotion to scripture and prayer and a shunning of politics, let alone political violence.

And especially since 2003, when Qaeda attacks in the kingdom awoke the monarchy to the danger it faced from militancy, Saudi Arabia has acted more aggressively to curtail preachers who call for violence, cut off terrorist financing and cooperate with Western intelligence to foil terrorist plots. From 2004 to 2012, 3,500 imams were fired for refusing to renounce extremist views, and another 20,000 went through retraining, according to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs — though the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom expressed skepticism that the training was really “instilling tolerance.”

An American scholar with long experience in Saudi Arabia — who spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve his ability to travel to the kingdom for research — said he believed that Saudi influence had often been exaggerated in American political discourse. But he compared it to climate change. Just as a one-degree increase in temperature can ultimately result in drastic effects around the globe, with glaciers melting and species dying off, so Saudi teaching is playing out in many countries in ways that are hard to predict and difficult to trace but often profound, the scholar said.

Saudi proselytizing can result in a “recalibrating of the religious center of gravity” for young people, the scholar said, which makes it “easier for them to swallow or make sense of the ISIS religious narrative when it does arrive. It doesn’t seem quite as foreign as it might have, had that Saudi religious influence not been there.”


Centuries-Old Dilemma

Why does Saudi Arabia find it so difficult to let go of an ideology that much of the world finds repugnant? The key to the Saudi dilemma dates back nearly three centuries to the origin of the alliance that still undergirds the Saudi state. In 1744, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a reformist cleric, sought the protection of Muhammad bin Saud, a powerful tribal leader in the harsh desert of the Arabian Peninsula. The alliance was mutually beneficial: Wahhab received military protection for his movement, which sought to return Muslims to what he believed were the values of the early years of Islam in the seventh century, when the Prophet Muhammad was alive. (His beliefs were a variant of Salafism, the conservative school of Islam that teaches that the salaf, or pious ancestors, had the correct ways and beliefs and should be emulated.) In return, the Saud family earned the endorsement of an Islamic cleric — a puritanical enforcer known for insisting on the death by stoning of a woman for adultery.

Wahhab’s particular version of Islam was the first of two historical accidents that would define Saudi religious influence centuries later. What came to be known as Wahhabism was “a tribal, desert Islam,” said Akbar Ahmed, the chairman of Islamic studies at American University in Washington. It was shaped by the austere environment — xenophobic, fiercely opposed to shrines and tombs, disapproving of art and music, and hugely different from the cosmopolitan Islam of diverse trading cities like Baghdad and Cairo.

The second historical accident came in 1938, when American prospectors discovered the largest oil reserves on earth in Saudi Arabia. Oil revenue generated by the Arabian-American Oil Company, or Aramco, created fabulous wealth. But it also froze in place a rigid social and economic system and gave the conservative religious establishment an extravagant budget for the export of its severe strain of Islam.

“One day you find oil, and the world is coming to you,” Professor Ahmed said. “God has given you the ability to take your version of Islam to the world.”

In 1964, when King Faisal ascended the throne, he embraced the obligation of spreading Islam. A modernizer in many respects, with close ties to the West, he nonetheless could not overhaul the Wahhabi doctrine that became the face of Saudi generosity in many countries. Over the next four decades, in non-Muslim-majority countries alone, Saudi Arabia would build 1,359 mosques, 210 Islamic centers, 202 colleges and 2,000 schools. Saudi money helped finance 16 American mosques; four in Canada; and others in London, Madrid, Brussels and Geneva, according to a report in an official Saudi weekly, Ain al-Yaqeen. The total spending, including supplying or training imams and teachers, was “many billions” of Saudi riyals (at a rate of about four to a dollar), the report said.

Saudi religious teaching had particular force because it came from the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, the land of Islam’s two holiest places, Mecca and Medina. When Saudi imams arrived in Muslim countries in Asia or Africa, or in Muslim communities in Europe or the Americas, wearing traditional Arabian robes, speaking the language of the Quran — and carrying a generous checkbook — they had automatic credibility.

As the 20th century progressed and people of different nationalities and faiths mixed routinely, the puritanical, exclusionary nature of Wahhab’s teachings would become more and more dysfunctional. But the Saudi government would find it extraordinarily difficult to shed or soften its ideology, especially after the landmark year of 1979.

In Tehran that year, the Iranian revolution brought to power a radical Shiite government, symbolically challenging Saudi Arabia, the leader of Sunnism, for leadership of global Islam. The declaration of an Islamic Republic escalated the competition between the two major branches of Islam, spurring the Saudis to redouble their efforts to counter Iran and spread Wahhabism around the world.

Then, in a stunning strike, a band of 500 Saudi extremists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca for two weeks, publicly calling Saudi rulers puppets of the West and traitors to true Islam. The rebels were defeated, but leading clerics agreed to back the government only after assurances of support for a crackdown on immodest ways in the kingdom and a more aggressive export of Wahhabism abroad.

Finally, at year’s end, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and seized power to prop up a Communist government. It soon faced an insurgent movement of mujahedeen, or holy warriors battling for Islam, which drew fighters from around the world for a decade-long battle to expel the occupiers.

Throughout the 1980s, Saudi Arabia and the United States worked together to finance the mujahedeen in this great Afghan war, which would revive the notion of noble armed jihad for Muslims worldwide. President Ronald Reagan famously welcomed to the Oval Office a delegation of bearded “Afghan freedom fighters” whose social and theological views were hardly distinguishable from those later embraced by the Taliban.

Saudi Arabia and the United States worked together to support the mujahedeen, the Afghan fighters whose representatives met President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office in 1983, in their fight against the Soviet occupation.

In fact, the United States spent $50 million from 1986 to 1992 on what was called a “jihad literacy” project — printing books for Afghan children and adults to encourage violence against non-Muslim “infidels” like Soviet troops. A first-grade language textbook for Pashto speakers, for example, according to a study by Dana Burde, an associate professor at New York University, used “Mujahid,” or fighter of jihad, as the illustration: “My brother is a Mujahid. Afghan Muslims are Mujahedeen. I do jihad together with them. Doing jihad against infidels is our duty.”


Pressure After 9/11


One day in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Robert W. Jordan, the United States ambassador to Saudi Arabia, was driving in the kingdom with the longtime Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. The prince pointed to a mosque and said, “I just fired the imam there.” The man’s preaching had been too militant, he said.

Mr. Jordan, a Texas lawyer, said that after the Qaeda attacks, he had stepped up pressure on the Saudi government over its spread of extremism. “I told them: ‘What you teach in your schools and preach in your mosques now is not an internal matter. It affects our national security,’” he said.

After years of encouraging and financing a harsh Islam in support of the anti-Soviet jihad, the United States had reversed course — gradually during the 1990s and then dramatically after the Sept. 11 attacks. But in pressuring Saudi Arabia, American officials would tread lightly, acutely aware of American dependence on Saudi oil and intelligence cooperation. Saudi reform would move at an excruciatingly slow pace.

Document: State Dept. Study on Saudi Textbooks
Twelve years after Sept. 11, after years of quiet American complaints about Saudi teachings, a State Department contractor, the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, completed a study of official Saudi textbooks. It reported some progress in cutting back on bigoted and violent content but found that plenty of objectionable material remained. Officials never released the 2013 study, for fear of angering the Saudis. The New York Times obtained it under the Freedom of Information Act.

Seventh graders were being taught that “fighting the infidels to elevate the words of Allah” was among the deeds Allah loved the most, the report found, among dozens of passages it found troubling. Tenth graders learned that Muslims who abandoned Islam should be jailed for three days and, if they did not change their minds, “killed for walking away from their true religion.” Fourth graders read that non-Muslims had been “shown the truth but abandoned it, like the Jews,” or had replaced truth with “ignorance and delusion, like the Christians.”

Some of the books, prepared and distributed by the government, propagated views that were hostile to science, modernity and women’s rights, not to say downright quirky — advocating, for instance, execution for sorcerers and warning against the dangers of the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. (The groups’ intent, said a 10th-grade textbook, “is to achieve the goals of the Zionist movement.”)

The textbooks, or other Saudi teaching materials with similar content, had been distributed in scores of countries, the study found. Textbook reform has continued since the 2013 study, and Saudi officials say they are trying to replace older books distributed overseas.

Excerpts from Saudi textbooks with critical comments from a 2013 study, commissioned by the State Department, that was never released for fear of angering the Saudis. The New York Times obtained the study under the Freedom of Information Act.
But as the study noted, the schoolbooks were only a modest part of the Saudis’ lavishly funded global export of Wahhabism. In many places, the study said, the largess includes “a Saudi-funded school with a Wahhabist faculty (educated in a Saudi-funded Wahhabist University), attached to a mosque with a Wahhabist imam, and ultimately controlled by an international Wahhabist educational body.”

This ideological steamroller has landed in diverse places where Muslims of different sects had spent centuries learning to accommodate one another. Sayyed Shah, a Pakistani journalist working on a doctorate in the United States, described the devastating effect on his town, not far from the Afghan border, of the arrival some years ago of a young Pakistani preacher trained in a Saudi-funded seminary.

Village residents had long held a mélange of Muslim beliefs, he said. “We were Sunni, but our culture, our traditions were a mixture of Shia and Barelvi and Deobandi,” Mr. Shah said, referring to Muslim sects. His family would visit the large Barelvi shrine, and watch their Shiite neighbors as they lashed themselves in a public religious ritual. “We wouldn’t do that ourselves, but we’d hand out sweets and water,” he said.

The new preacher, he said, denounced the Barelvi and Shiite beliefs as false and heretical, dividing the community and setting off years of bitter argument. By 2010, Mr. Shah said, “everything had changed.” Women who had used shawls to cover their hair and face began wearing full burqas. Militants began attacking kiosks where merchants sold secular music CDs. Twice, terrorists used explosives to try to destroy the village’s locally famous shrine.

“One day you find oil,
and the world is coming
to you. God has given you
the ability to take your
version of Islam to the world.”
AKBAR AHMED, CHAIRMAN OF ISLAMIC STUDIES AT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
Now, Mr. Shah said, families are divided; his cousin, he said, “just wants Saudi religion.” He said an entire generation had been “indoctrinated” with a rigid, unforgiving creed.

“It’s so difficult these days,” he said. “Initially we were on a single path. We just had economic problems, but we were culturally sound.”

He added, “But now it’s very difficult, because some people want Saudi culture to be our culture, and others are opposing that.”

C. Christine Fair, a specialist on Pakistan at Georgetown University, said Mr. Shah’s account was credible. But like many scholars describing the Saudi impact on religion, she said that militancy in Pakistan also had local causes. While Saudi money and teaching have unquestionably been “accelerants,” Pakistan’s sectarian troubles and jihadist violence have deep roots dating to the country’s origins in the partition of India in 1947.

“The idea that without the Saudis Pakistan would be Switzerland is ridiculous,” she said.


Elusive Saudi Links

That is the disputed question, of course: how the world would be different without decades of Saudi-funded shaping of Islam. Though there is a widespread belief that Saudi influence has contributed to the growth of terrorism, it is rare to find a direct case of cause and effect. For example, in Brussels, the Grand Mosque was built with Saudi money and staffed with Saudi imams. In 2012, according to Saudi diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, one Saudi preacher was removed after Belgian complaints that he was a “true Salafi” who did not accept other schools of Islam. And Brussels’ immigrant neighborhoods, notably Molenbeek, have long been the home of storefront mosques teaching hard-line Salafi views.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November and in Brussels in March were tied to an Islamic State cell in Belgium, the Saudi history was the subject of several news media reports. Yet it was difficult to find any direct link between the bombers and the Saudi legacy in the Belgian capital.

Several suspects had petty criminal backgrounds; their knowledge of Islam was described by friends as superficial; they did not appear to be regulars at any mosque. Though the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blasts, resentment of the treatment of North African immigrant families in Belgium and exposure to Islamic State propaganda, in person or via the internet and social media, appeared to be the major factors motivating the attacks.

If there was a Saudi connection, it was highly indirect, perhaps playing out over a generation or longer. Hind Fraihi, a Moroccan-Belgian journalist who went underground in the Brussels immigrant neighborhood of Molenbeek in 2005 and wrote a book about it, met Saudi-trained imams and found lots of extremist literature written in Saudi Arabia that encouraged “polarization, the sentiment of us against them, the glorification of jihad.”

The recent attackers, Ms. Fraihi said, were motivated by “lots of factors — economic frustration, racism, a generation that feels it has no future.” But Saudi teaching, she said, “is part of the cocktail.”

Without the Saudi presence over the decades, might a more progressive and accommodating Islam, reflecting immigrants’ Moroccan roots, have taken hold in Brussels? Would young Muslims raised in Belgium have been less susceptible to the stark, violent call of the Islamic State? Conceivably, but the case is impossible to prove.

Or consider an utterly different cultural milieu — the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia. The Saudis have sent money for mosque-building, books and teachers for decades, said Sidney Jones, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta.

“Over time,” said Ms. Jones, who has visited or lived in Indonesia since the 1970s, the Saudi influence “has contributed to a more conservative, more intolerant atmosphere.” (President Obama, who lived in Indonesia as a boy, has remarked on the same phenomenon.) She said she believed money from private Saudi donors and foundations was behind campaigns in Indonesia against Shiite and Ahmadi Islam, considered heretical by Wahhabi teaching. Some well-known Indonesian religious vigilantes are Saudi-educated, she said.

But when Ms. Jones studied the approximately 1,000 people arrested in Indonesia on terrorism charges since 2002, she found only a few — “literally four or five” — with ties to Wahhabi or Salafi institutions. When it comes to violence, she concluded, the Saudi connection is “mostly a red herring.”

In fact, she said, there is a gulf between Indonesian jihadists and Indonesian Salafis who look to Saudi or Yemeni scholars for guidance. The jihadists accuse the Salafis of failing to act on their convictions; the Salafis scorn the jihadists as extremists.

Whatever the global effects of decades of Saudi proselytizing, it is under greater scrutiny than ever, from outside and inside the kingdom. Saudi leaders’ ideological reform efforts, encompassing textbooks and preaching, amount to a tacit recognition that its religious exports have sometimes backfired. And the kingdom has stepped up an aggressive public relations campaign in the West, hiring American publicists to counter critical news media reports and fashion a reformist image for Saudi leaders.

But neither the publicists nor their clients can renounce the strain of Islam on which the Saudi state was built, and old habits sometimes prove difficult to suppress. A prominent cleric, Saad bin Nasser al-Shethri, had been stripped of a leadership position by the previous king, Abdullah, for condemning coeducation. King Salman restored Mr. Shethri to the job last year, not long after the cleric had joined the chorus of official voices criticizing the Islamic State. But Mr. Shethri’s reasoning for denouncing the Islamic State suggested the difficulty of change. The group was, he said, “more infidel than Jews and Christians.”

—————————————–

Photo: The Seoul Central Mosque in South Korea, one of hundreds of mosques around the world built using Saudi donations. Credit Choi Won-Suk/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Photo: The King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles. Credit Patrick T. Fallon for The New York Times

Photo: The United States spent millions printing textbooks for Afghan children and adults that encouraged violence against non-Muslim “infidels” like Soviet troops, as in this excerpt from a book for Pashto-speaking first graders. Credit From Dana Burde, Schools for Conflict or for Peace in Afghanistan

Photo: The Iranian revolution in early 1979 brought to power a radical Shiite government, symbolically challenging Saudi Arabia, the leader of Sunnism, for leadership of global Islam. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Photo: A wounded man at the airport in Brussels after an attack by jihadists in March. There appears to be no direct link between the bombers and the Saudi legacy in the Belgian capital. Credit Ketevan Kardava/Associated Press

Photo: During his reign from 1964 to 1975, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, pictured here in May 1968, embraced the duty of spreading Islam around the world. Credit Raymond Depardon/Magnum Photos

Photo: Members of the Saudi security services inspecting the site of a car bomb attack in May 2015 targeting Shiite Saudis attending Friday Prayer at a mosque in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Credit European Pressphoto Agency

Photo: Saudi oil fields developed by Aramco, the Arabian-American Oil Company, as seen in this 1951 photograph, provided generous funding for the export of the Saudi version of Islam. Credit Associated Press

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Secrets of the Kingdom

A Saudi Morals Enforcer Called for a More Liberal Islam. Then the Death Threats Began.JUL. 11, 2016

A Saudi Imam, 2 Hijackers and Lingering 9/11 Mystery JUNE 18, 2016

How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS MAY 22, 2016

ISIS Turns Saudis Against the Kingdom, and Families Against Their Own APRIL 1, 2016

Quiet Support for Saudis Entangles U.S. in Yemen MARCH 14, 2016

U.S. Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels JAN. 24, 2016

———————————-===================================—————————-

Follow Scott Shane on Twitter @ScottShaneNYT.

Hala Droubi contributed reporting from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

A version of this article appears in print on August 26, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: ‘Both Arsonists and Firefighters’. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

—————————————————————————————

RELATED COVERAGE
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Cross-Border Fire From Yemen Kills 7 in Saudi Arabia AUG. 17, 2016
Saudi King Shakes Up Government as Economic Plan Moves Forward MAY 7, 2016

Saudi Prince Shares Plan to Cut Oil Dependency and Energize the Economy APRIL 25, 2016

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Those interested in how a near 0 economy could be achieved using existing technology may find this chapter, available at papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?a…

Integrating Vehicles and the Electricity Grid to Store and Use Renewable Energy by David Hodas :

 SSRNpapers.ssrn.com

The world could be powered by renewable energy: more energy from the sun hits the earth in one hour than all of the energy consumed on our planet in an entire year.

In Delivering Energy Policy in the EU and US: A Multi-Disciplinary Reader, (Heffron and Little, eds.) (Edinburgh University Press, 2016)

Widener University Delaware Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 16-13


Abstract:


The world could be powered by renewable energy: more energy from the sun hits the earth in one hour than all of the energy consumed on our planet in an entire year.


Achieving a low-carbon economy is less technology dependent than it is dependent on new, well-designed energy law that broadly shifts private incentives towards efficient use of renewable energy using of “game-changing” technology such as Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) motor vehicles that could shift the world to a low-carbon economy.

V2G vehicles integrate separate energy conversion systems: the electricity grid and light vehicle transportation fleet by storing electricity from the grid when it is not needed and returning it to the grid when it is needed.

The total U.S. light vehicle fleet power capacity is about 39 times the power generation capacity of the U.S. electrical generation system.

The grid could use power stored in idle V2G batteries whenever needed, yet each vehicle would be tapped only within the constraints of its drivers’ specific schedule and driving needs. 20,000,000 V2G cars (just 10% of the U.S. fleet) with an average peak power rating of only 50 Kw, would have the combined power capacity equivalent to the entire U.S. Electric grid. This fleet would be the backup system for a fully renewable (e.g., solar and wind) energy generation system.

The benefits of a V2G system could be enormous: dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions and the adverse health effects of air pollution from burning fossil fuels and a more robust electric grid. A renewable energy V2G system could replace fossil fuels in many regions of the world.

David R. Hodas
Distinguished Professor of Law
Widener University
Delaware Law School

4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington DE 19803-0474

302 477 2186 (tel)
302 477 2257 (fax)
 drhodas at widener.edu

 papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsBy…
 works.bepress.com/david_hodas/

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: “United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service”
Date: August 22, 2016 at 7:09:29 PM EDT

Subject: [MARKETING] Solutions Summit at UNHQ: Call for Submissions – Apply by 28 August!
Reply-To:  join at solutions-summit.org

WHAT IS THE SOLUTIONS SUMMIT?

The second annual Solutions Summit is a catalytic gathering that will take place at UN Headquarters in New York on the evening of 21 September 2016 during UN General Assembly week.

The purpose of the Solutions Summit is two-fold: 1) to lift up exceptional innovators — technologists, engineers, scientists, and others — who are developing solutions that address one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and 2) to catalyze a grassroots effort, where communities scout and convene resources around solution-makers.

The first Solutions Summit in 2015 immediately followed the conclusion of the UN Sustainable Development Summit at which the SDGs were adopted by all 193 UN Member States. It showed that people already have extraordinary solutions in progress to our most complex challenges.

For 2016, the Solutions Summit will highlight projects that advance the objectives of one or more of the following upcoming global Summits and Conferences:

> UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants – UNHQ NY – September 2016
> UN Habitat III Conference – Ecuador – October 2016
> UN Climate Change Conference – Morocco – November 2016
> Open Government Partnership Global Summit – France – December 2017
> UN Oceans Conference – Fiji – June 2017

WHAT ARE THE INTENDED OUTCOMES?

During the Solutions Summit, a group of selected global innovators will be invited to give a ‘lightning talk’ outlining their breakthrough efforts to a juxtaposed audience of senior policymakers who have the means to pave solid regulatory foundations, investors who care deeply about long-term change and impact, and industry leaders who are able to deploy quickly and at scale. The gathering will serve as a catalyst to convene resources and talent around solution-makers.

WHO IS ORGANIZING THE EFFORT?

Solutions Summit is led by the UN Foundation, the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) and the Global Innovation Exchange, in collaboration with the SDG Philanthropy Platform, the Global Entrepreneurship Council, and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, with an open invitation for governments and other partners to join. UN-NGLS is coordinating the open and transparent application and selection process to curate solutions to be featured during the Solutions Summit.

SUBMIT YOUR SOLUTION:

 solutions-summit.org

DEADLINE

Sunday, 28 August 2016

HELP SPREAD THE WORD

Help us surface extraordinary individuals and teams developing solutions that address the SDGs.
Please share and encourage people to apply!

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